In retrospect, it was perhaps a good indication of things to come when I climbed into the car with Brother Junius and noticed he was wearing goggles. In my eagerness to get off of monastery grounds, I jumped at the opportunity when Father Mo asked if I’d like to help do the shopping, and dismissed the goggles as a mere eccentricity. Now that I have the distance of hindsight working in my favor, I realize something: Junie’s eccentricities can be deadly, and Father Mo is a jerk. This summer has been hot in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest, at least by our standards, and there is no air conditioning in most of the monastery. Only the scriptorium is climate-controlled, because, well, fragile shit deteriorates when the heat and humidity get out of hand. Those of us who are allowed in the scriptorium have been spending as much time as possible in there lately because of the heat, and have begun getting on each others’ nerves more than usual. Q, for example, has been downright bitchy.
“If you can peel yourself away from that acanthus leaf you’ve been gilding for the last three days,” Q whined at me, ” maybe I can trouble you to pass me the agate burnisher. Whattaya say?”
“What do I say?” I responded.
“I say fuck you. Get your own burnisher, this one’s mine. There are five in the closet.” (Okay, maybe I’ve been just a touch cranky too.)
“You borrowed that from me last week,” he continued. “It’s mine.”
“None of them are yours, and no I didn’t. Junie brought it back on the last supply run.”
“He didn’t do a supply run! It was only to get bananas for Viggo.”
“Bullshit it was. He got bananas, gas for the generator and an agate burnisher.”
“You’re telling me he drove all the way to Portland for an burnisher?”
“I guess. I don’t know where he gets these things. Let’s go ask him if you don’t believe me.”
“You go ask him, I’ll use the burnisher while you’re gone.”
“Don’t be a dick, Q. Get your own fucking burnisher.”
And just then Q seemed to notice Linus, who was sitting in the corner with an expression of abject terror on his face, much like he was waiting for one of us to shoot the other. In a pretty un-fucking Buddhist manner, Q asked, “What the hell is your problem, Babbles?”
Linus leapt up like a goddamn hand grenade had hatched under his ass and dropped a book on the counter where Q was stretching a piece of antique vellum, which in turn caught a tension rod and sent clips and tools clattering to the floor. Q threw his hands up in surprise as it all went flying, and by the time his eyes ignited with homicidal intent Linus was already long gone. I laughed–I couldn’t help myself. And when an expensive little bottle of verdigris pigment flew my way, I ducked out of the scriptorium too.
So that’s how I came to be in the kitchen when Father Mo walked in with Brother Junius. I’d helped myself to a tall glass of iced tea and was heading for the back door to enjoy it under a tree when the two of them came in, speaking in hushed tones. Father Mo was tucking his stringy white hair behind his ears and peering at Junie through thick, black-framed nerd glasses.
“Do you understand?” he asked.
Junie nodded before responding in a thick brogue. “Aye, Father.”
Brother Junius is Scottish. A wiry guy with a Puckish presence and a shock of red hair perched uncomfortably on his head, he seems like he might have missed his calling as a Hollywood stunt man or fucking alligator wrestler or something. He’s energetic and reckless like Carol but in a more actively dangerous way. The dude doesn’t sleep more than a few hours a night and seems to always be cooking or working on some project or other, from an impeccable souffle to irrigation systems to combustible citrus fruit. (“When life gives you fooking lemons…” he had said.)
The fact that Junius is Scottish matters not one whit except to know that sometimes, when he’s really worked up, we have no idea what the hell he’s saying. There was one time when he pulled a flaming piece of something out of the oven and for all we could tell HE might as well have been speaking in tongues. When the roast beast landed ablaze on the floor there was a lot of shouting and carrying on as Carol hooted and applauded his approval and Viggo screamed at the 911 operator.
Q and I skipped dinner in favor of smoking a bowl out in the meadow.
Anyway, when I got in the car with Junius the other day and saw his goggles I laughed. “What are those for?” I asked.
“The wind makes my eyes dry,” he answered.
“What—” I began, but then he shouted at me to buckle up.
By the time I had the seatbelt halfway around my body though, we were already tearing down the dirt road toward the highway, Junie laughing maniacally. The windows were down so my cowl was flying up around my face and I was pretty sure I was about to find out whether God exists. Of course, I didn’t have the presence of mind to realize that screaming HOLY SHIT as I shot through heaven’s pearly gates was probably not the first impression I wanted to make, so it’s pretty fortunate I survived. Well, for a lot of reasons.
We made it to the highway in oh, about negative three seconds—fast enough to travel forward in time and see ourselves arrive—and then barreled toward town at roughly Mach 3. This is a bit what it sounded like:
Junie: HAHAHAHAHAH! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Me: WHATTHEFUUUUUUUUUUCK! JUUUUUNIEEEEE!
Junie: Brother! If the good Lord didn’t intend for us to drive fast, then why the fook did he give us nitro?
You get the idea.
The rest was pretty much a blur of terror, sweat and screaming, punctuated by the embarrassment of seeing my own pathetic life flash before my eyes. We did eventually get to town, because I have some vague recollection of Junie making a few stops and packing bags and boxes into the trunk, but I was mostly too busy yakking out the passenger door to pay very close attention. And then we did the same all the way back to the monastery.
What a shithead.
Father Mo met us outside as we came in bearing the fruits of the journey, Junie with a jaunty spring in his step and me stumbling toward the door like fucking Igor.
“Did you talk to them?” Father Mo asked him.
Junie nodded. “Aye. They cannae get it for ye til Thursday.”
Mo nodded and then clapped me on the back. “Want to ride with him to Portland for an agate burnisher? Or are you ready to get back to work?” he asked.
I paused brielfy, contemplating the options before me, and then puked on his shoes.